Granada CEO Keen to Mine Library

Apr 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

With a companywide goal of doubling revenues to $2.4 billion by 2012, ITV Global Content head Dawn Airey named Paul Buccieri CEO of Granada America earlier this year. With growing pressure on the company to perform, Mr. Buccieri moved quickly to exploit the company’s large library of titles to boost the number of series airing on U.S. television.
One key project now being shopped to the networks is upcoming big-budget miniseries “Impact,” through Granada’s Jaffe/Braunstein Films division along with Tandem Communications and Muse Entertainment Enterprises. The story follows consequences that arise when the moon is struck by a burnt-out star. It features Natasha Henstridge, David James Elliott, James Cromwell, Benjamin Sadler and Florentine Lahme.
Granada has already sold the project to more than 90 territories worldwide, including Germany, France, Austria, Spain, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Latin America, Benelux, Middle East, Romania and Slovakia, covering the $14 million cost of the miniseries.
With Granada’s “Hell’s Kitchen” continuing to perform well on Fox and a number of series running strong on cable, including “Celebrity Fit Club” on VH1, Mr. Buccieri sat down with TelevisionWeek Deputy Editor Chris Pursell to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for the company.
TelevisionWeek: What is the state of the union at Granada America now that you have taken over?
Paul Buccieri: It’s a great company. We’ve done a great job and we have some nice franchises going. One of the things that [ITV Global content head] Dawn [Airey] wants to do, and I responded really well to this, is that one advantage we have in the marketplace is that we own a network in the U.K. And we really haven’t fully exploited that to the level that we should. That’s one of the things that she’s really focusing in on. The other thing is that we’re using all of our different outposts. Fremantle has done a fine job of this, and [of] working as one collective development unit. My development team isn’t essentially the core people I have here in L.A. and the core people I have in New York. I have people all over, from Germany, Australia, the U.K., and it’s given me the access to so many formats, and so many shows, that the issue now is to prioritize which shows are the best shows to take out for the right networks and that are in line with the brand of the different networks. The other thing I’m excited about is expansion into new territories. We’re going to be very aggressive about setting up offices in other territories around the world, India particularly, so I’m excited about getting those formats in those shows. For me it’s maximizing our scale in the most effective way here in the United States and expanding our portfolio.
TVWeek: Coming from Twentieth Television, what skill set did you learn there that you could apply to Granada?
Mr. Buccieri: News Corp.’s a very disciplined organization, and from the top down they are extremely focused on things, and it really helped me and brought a lot of clarity to me. I focus on things that I can generate revenue on. I also learned a lot about speed. Speed is essential. The other thing about working in a big company like News Corp., we really had the advantage of being vertically integrated. Another advantage is being nimble. Being here at Granada, where I can align myself with a lot of different partners very quickly, and utilizing that speed here so I can make deals very, very quickly, I can work with multiple different partners. And it gives me the flexibility to hopefully set up more different projects.
TVWeek: How long before we see your fingerprints all over what Granada is doing?
Mr. Buccieri: I think over the course of the next two months you’ll see a lot of closed deals and a lot of announcements in the nonscripted side as well as the scripted side, which I’m really excited about, going into that arena as well.
TVWeek: How important is [scripted programming] to the company right now?
Mr. Buccieri: One of the big things about Granada here is that a lot of people don’t know all the shows that we do. On the nonscripted side we’re doing very, very well, and I think we can do better. But at the same time, where I can see the most growth potential is in the scripted side of the business. It made me feel really good that I read the Hollywood Reporter this week, and to see three shows on the scripted side being associated with Granada USA is very gratifying. I think we can really expand that. And we have literally thousands, I’m not exaggerating here, thousands of scripted shows and formats that we can set up with, align with other studios on the right projects, take the calculated risk to do the deficit financing, and I think that’s a real area of growth. In that area we’re going to be hiring some people to staff up to exploit that. So that’s the target for us. The ITV library is second only to BBC in size.
TVWeek: How do you go about deciding what’s right for different media outlets?
Mr. Buccieri: First we have to find the right situation; it can be very convoluted. So we have literally list after list of the different formats. We’ve been inviting creative writers, producers to take looks at those shows and those properties, and see what shows that they gravitate to and if that’s in their strength to be able to set up. I don’t want to just limit us, me as a producer, to say this is the show I’m going to take out. We’re having other people take a look, and see what we have. ITV Productions has a lot of pilots that have been set up in the U.K. that are done, written, drafted, re-drafted and ready to go. We’re bringing those out to our agency, ICM, they’re trying to attach the right writers or directors. As you know very well, the scripted business, it’s all about the writer. And now, in the one-hour, it’s also a lot about the director. So we’re attaching the right people.
TVWeek: Some people have claimed that the U.K. formats are tapped out and it’s time to find series from new locations, be it India or New Zealand. Is that a feeling you share?
Mr. Buccieri: No, I don’t think it’s tapped out in the U.K. But I do think that one doesn’t supersede the other, it doesn’t overshadow the other, I think you should exploit both. I think this is more of a trend from a prime-time network perspective. People are more inclined to buy a formatted show and they’re more inclined to buy English-speaking format. Every year we have a slate of those shows coming on. So I see that continuing. But I do see that we have to look elsewhere as well. You can’t just be so selective on one market and one place. You never know where the next great idea is coming from.
TVWeek: I can’t do an interview about Granada without mentioning “Hell’s Kitchen” star Gordon Ramsay. How does he impact the company?
Mr. Buccieri: He’s a wonderful talent. He’s got all that star quality. But he also comes to the show with a producer’s mind, which I think actually elevates the productions. We’re so grateful to have him, as is Fox. Mike Darnell has done a wonderful job shepherding him and nurturing him as a brand. So what we have now is a bona fide hit where we have two shows with him at Fox, and things are going well with that.
TVWeek: Can you elaborate on exploiting some of the shows that have been developed internally here?
Mr. Buccieri: I think the greatest opportunity for Granada America shows, original shows, is in the cable arena. Not to exclude the [broadcast] prime-time arena by any means, but it’s easier for us to mount original projects in cable versus prime time. We did a show called “The Big Match” for Lifetime that now is being exploited all over the world. We have several others, actually. We have three other properties that are original Granada USA formats that, once we mount here, essentially, we call it, “goes in the wheel.” And we get it out to formatting, we get it out to sales, and then I talk to my counterparts in all the different territories that we have and we try to get out those materials as quickly as possible.
TVWeek: You guys made some headlines with the sale of “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses” to CMT. Can you talk about the back-end life of reality shows?
Mr. Buccieri: There is life after original shows. One of the things that we’re trying to do in our development is try to focus in on some self-contained reality properties. It’s a benefit to us because there’s an afterlife, after-market value to it. It’s a benefit to the broadcasters that produce it so that they can get more lives out of it. And so that they can use it—one, as filler, if their other shows go down. Two, they have the show for the summer, the show that they can review in the summer and retain the same level. So yeah, that’s something that I talk about quite often actually. And reaping the benefits of “Nanny 911,” which is doing very, very well on CMT. I just got a call from them about that. Yeah, but that is a focus for me.
TVWeek: Let’s talk about your Granada America New York. Where do they fit in the picture?
Mr. Buccieri: We have a New York office, which is run by Patrice Andrews, our senior VP of production and operations. They are a major supplier of reality programming to cable, with nearly 50 hours due to be produced this year, including “The First 48,” which is delivering the highest ratings of its run currently. We expect that an order for season nine is coming soon. The New York office has an expertise in the documentary/docusoap genre, and they’ve done unbelievably well. We really want to get more production done out of there because they can execute flawlessly. The way that they’ve produced these shows, I think, is unmatched, and we’re excited about more possibilities with them. I just want the creative community, producers and executives to know that we here at Granada USA are a place that comes up with unique, creative ideas, nurtures those ideas and executes those ideas and makes everyone involved feel proud of the quality of the show, the ratings of the show. We want to be a place people want to do business with. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been really fortunate, as well as really grateful to Fox, for placing us after “American Idol,” to show everyone how wonderful “Hell’s Kitchen” is, from not just a ratings perspective but from a critical perspective. Because of that we were fortunate enough that they took the order from 10 episodes to 14 episodes of “Kitchen Nightmares.”
TVWeek: How were you able to pull together a miniseries like “Impact?”
Mr. Buccieri: We are always aggressively out in the marketplace selling and developing new concepts. With “Impact,” it’s a really unique deal that they’ve structured. I think we did all the financing overseas. So it’s very much like an independent feature and we’re coming back here to sell it. That’s a really unique and interesting model. I want people to realize that we’re a place where, when you come here, we develop shows together, you not only have the opportunity to develop shows for the United States marketplace but you have opportunities to put these shows on the ITV network in the U.K. and then, of course, around the world. I think that’s exciting to producers because, as an independent producer, you’re isolated out there, and we’ll give you an opportunity to be nurtured in an environment where you can succeed and you can be rewarded financially for that success. That’s the type of environment I would want to be in. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the company because the expectations are really, really high.
10:40 a.m.: Updated first paragraph to reflect $2.4 billion revenue goal is ITV’s, not solely Granada America’s and corrected name of Mike Darnell in answer about Gordon Ramsay.


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